The city of Tecumseh, Mich., will honor one of its own on Memorial Day. A Navy corpsman killed while saving the lives of five Marines during the Vietnam War will be honored as part of an annual ceremony in Brookside Cemetery.
The city of Tecumseh will honor one of its own on Memorial Day. A Navy corpsman killed while saving the lives of five Marines during the Vietnam War will be honored as part of an annual ceremony in Brookside Cemetery.
The family of Hospitalman 2nd Class Donald Lee Rudd will be presented with a congressional proclamation commending his service and sacrifice and the Purple Heart he was to have received.
Rear Adm. Harry Rittenour will make the presentation as the guest speaker during the ceremony in Brookside Cemetery on North Union Street following the parade Monday. Rudd, who received the Navy Cross for his valor in combat, is buried in Brookside. The Navy Cross is the second-highest award available to sailors and Marines next to the Medal of Honor.
“Everybody in the family is pretty excited about it,” said Dan Rudd, a sergeant at the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department and nephew of Donald Rudd. “We’ve got people coming from all over. We are looking forward to the honor.”
At the time of his death, Rudd was a corpsman — a position the Army calls a medic — with a Marine unit north of Khe Sanh in the Quang Tri Province of Vietnam. He was killed March 3, 1969, in the performance of his duty.
“He had saved four Marines and went back to get another,” said Tecumseh City Councilman Gary Naugle. “He came under fire with the fifth guy and covered him up. He returned fire but was hit in the back and killed. The other guy survived.”
Naugle, who is annually one of the main organizers of the Memorial Day ceremonies and parade in Tecumseh, went to school with Rudd and for several years has been looking for a way to pay tribute to his friend. Naugle, Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, have been working on securing the honors.
“We tried to get him the Congressional Medal of Honor, but were told you have to do it within two years of his death,” Naugle said. “Kevin talked with Tim Walberg, who worked to get the congressional proclamation. We will present it to Don’s family, who are coming down for Memorial Day.”
Rudd, who was 23 at the time of his death, was serving as senior corpsman with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division. His unit sustained several casualties when a reinforced enemy squad penetrated its line.
According to his military citation, Rudd gave immediate assistance to the injured Marines while under heavy fire. He administered first aid and removed the wounded men to safety.
“On several occasions, to insure the safety of his charges, he was forced to use protective fire, at close quarters, against the attackers,” the citation read. “When he observed a seriously wounded Marine who was pinned down by enemy fire, Petty Officer Rudd rushed to the side of the victim and protected him with his own body while administering medical aid.”
The citation went on to say Rudd was fatally wounded while returning fire on the enemy. He was still shielding the wounded Marine.
“By his great personal valor and self-sacrificing efforts, Petty Officer Rudd was directly responsible for saving the lives of at least five Marines,” the citation read. “His inspiring and steadfast devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Naugle was inspired to pursue the additional honor for Rudd after reading books and news articles about Medal of Honor winners in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. Naugle noted those people were honored for saving one or two lives, and he thought Rudd deserved more recognition than he received at the time of his death. Walberg agreed.
“We owe Donald Rudd a debt of gratitude for his service to America and commitment to defending the liberty and freedoms we enjoy,” Walberg said in a written statement. “Donald is an American hero who served our nation with distinction and honor. South-central Michigan thanks him for his service, sacrifice and bravery.”
Naugle said a hospital building in Hawaii was named in honor of Donald Lee Rudd. Dan Rudd said the building is located at Kaneohe Bay and was dedicated in the 1990s.
“They set up a simulcast in Hawaii and sent it back here,” Dan Rudd said. “There was a special ceremony at Brookside Cemetery at that time.”
The Memorial Day events in Tecumseh will begin between 9 and 9:30 a.m., as the parade lines up at city hall. Following a brief ceremony, concluding with “Taps” and a 21-gun salute, the parade will head west on Chicago Boulevard through downtown and then turn north onto Union Street. The procession will head to Brookside Cemetery for the ceremony.
After the parade, public tours of the Mausoleum at Brookside will be available. Using donated funds, the mausoleum is being remodeled. Completion is expected later this summer, said Welch.